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a travel blog by Big_T

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The Goodbye Party

Tokyo, Japan

Adam kindly organised the venue for this occasion (a place called The Dog's Bollox in Ikebukuro) and we both went about inviting our respective and mutual friends. Somewhere in the vicinity of 60 people turned up to join in the festivities. As the night progressed, we got drunker and drunker and yet neither of us had had to buy a drink. As expected all of this drunken behaviour led to some drunken shenanigans, but no-one was hurt or arrested, so all was good.

Someone had the idea of doing speeches, an unusual event at a normal going-away party, at least for the ones I have been to. Some good friends spoke and explained to everyone there how wonderful we were and then I spoke, followed Adam. As expected, Adam started his speech with some toilet humour at my expense, as I had to go to the toilet quickly after finishing my speech.

As the speeches progressed it started becoming clear how much our friends thought of us, and hopefully our words in the following speeches demonstrated how important those people were to the both of us too. Although Adam did use the “C” word in his speech... Naughty naughty!

The night wore on, with some people going home on last train, people who lived close enough taking cabs, and the last few remaining drunks staying until the morning... All in all, a brilliant evening and a tribute to the great friends that have made my stay in Japan such a wonderful experience.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 17, 2008 from Tokyo, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Drinking, Fun and GoodbyeParty

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Moving Days...

Tokyo, Japan

My friend and amazingly hardworking removalist Stephen Watson cleaned up the house, while I gave a small amount of assistance. Lane and Jon were also valuable in this process, thanks for your help boys! Much appreciated... I also had the chance during this time to say goodbye to some very important people in my life. They know who they are... Thankyou very much for being so important to me...

permalink written by  Big_T on August 18, 2008 from Tokyo, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Friends, Moving, Stephen and Legend

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The Second Last Day

Tokyo, Japan

Again Stephen was amazing today. He did most of my moving, I sorted everything out with the real estate agent and left the house at about 1:30.

I rushed as quickly as a fat man with a 20kg pack on his back can to the Mongolian embassy, and after the cab driver got lost (why does no-one know where this place is?) I made it there at about 2:40pm. The embassy official handed mine over immediately but when I asked him for Adam's one, he showed me the passport and application and asked “What the hell is this?” I said “An application and passport.” He said something indecipherable and then he complained that Adam never answered his phone. If your battery has no charge for 3 days and you had misplaced your adapter, your phone wouldn't work either, but the official was having none of that. I asked him if he could make the visa now, and he said that he could, and he went on to do so.

I then proceeded to head down to Osaka on the shinkansen and made it there by about 6:30, checked into the hotel (Hotel Shinosaka), got a call from Mum and Dad who are a week away from their own trip and then went out to get some food. Fell asleep at about 11. Never have I slept so solidly.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 20, 2008 from Tokyo, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged BackPack, Shinkansen, Mongolia and Sleep

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Nara and Osaka

Nara, Japan

Woke up at about 9:30 and repacked my stuff... Threw out some things that I knew I could probably live without and decided to be a lttle wiser about how to pack the bag. I realised that I had forgotten some things, most notably a plastic bag to keep my smelly clothes in. I need to pick one of those up on the way. I was in the room at about 11:05 when the man called and told me very politely that checkout time was at 11:00. I told him that I would be down in 1 minute. At 11:45 I got to the front desk and checked out, and then proceeded to get totally lost like a tourist heading towards Nara. Nara is the ancient capital of Japan and so it has... you guessed it TEMPLES! Unlike everywhere else in Japan, there are a lot of Temples, and by “unlike” I mean “exactly like”.

Nara park is an interesting place loaded with grass and trees, it is absolutely overrun by deer. These deer are not like Bambi though, they are more closely related to Cujo. These deer would frighten the Terminator with their out and out aggression. Walking through the park to get to Todaiji (the world's largest wooden structure), I spent the time avoiding deer, deer shit and people shitting themselves because of the deer. Screaming women and children were commonplace, particularly due to the availability of so-called “Shika senbei” which means deer cookies. Morons seemed to enjoy buying these cookies only to absolutely crap their pants when the deers come up to them and try to eat them, which is the reason for their existence.

Get to Todaiji. Fuck! It is massive! It is a very impressive building with a very large buddha statue inside it, and on this day it was jam-packed with Chinese tourists. I still manage to get a great view of the place as well as the inside statue of the Buddha which has him seated on some petals with his right palm showing which obviously has some significance, but I have absolutely no idea. All I know is that he is absolutely monstrous!

Trains back to Osaka and waited for the lads...

Tried to go to a small yakitori place but were told that even though there were no people in there, that there was no space for us. Sometimes I will not miss Japan at all. Telling us we can't enter because we are foreigners is just unacceptable...

Ended up in an izakaya, me, Adam, Dana, and Jeza. Good times with good mates. It is what life is about really... Another couple of bevvies up in the room, and then three hours sleep until getting up ready for the boat in the morning.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 21, 2008 from Nara, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Nara, Todaiji, Daibutsu and Drinks

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Get on the Boat!

Osaka, Japan

Morning arrives, we eat the regulation free business hotel buffet, and then get a cab to the port. The cab was jam-packed with the 4 of us plus Adam and my massive luggage. The cab driver did not seemed best pleased, especially when the bottom of the car scraped on the gutter as we had overloaded his jaloppy.

Get to the ferry port very early expecting there to be issues with passport clearance and we had to stand around waiting. The port was a warehouse with a few people behind desks and a vending machine. Not a single shop.

While we were waiting Dana befriended a guy whose name we don't know, but my best guess would be “Child-bearing Hips”, or CBH... He was at the port 7 hours early for a ferry to Korea. He offered to take our picture all together which he did with everyone's camera except mine. After he did that he decided to hang around and become our friend... Well, after all, he had taken the picture.

Dana and CBH starting becoming as thick as thieves, so the rest of us retreated hastily outside and talked about how much we didn't want to talk to the other guy. A few more photos were taken and then it was time to board. Some sad goodbyes were said and I can not thank those boys enough for coming all the way to Osaka to make our send off even more special. Then we boarded the “luxurious” Su Zhou Hao. As we boarded we were impressed that our tickets said VIP on them as we had booked the VIP room, but no-one else seemed to give a crap. We ate lunch, sat around, ate dinner had a beer, shot the shit and then went to bed at 11pm... What a sad pair...

permalink written by  Big_T on August 22, 2008 from Osaka, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Boat, Boring and CBH

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The day that didn't happen...

Osaka, Japan

I say this because I tried to wake up at 8:30 or so, sat down on the couch and felt the floor of the boat hit the roof... The day before, our friend Brian had called and said that there was a typhoon blowing off of Hong Kong, we of course paid no heed to this, but the next morning heed came and kicked us in the nuts...

Adam had said something about if you feel sea sick make sure you're touching a surface, well I tried that... No dice! The sea was angry that day my friends! So I gave up trying to be human and lay down... I went back to sleep and woke up again at 11:30. tried to go to the toilet, but each time I stood up, the inside of my guts started knocking on the back of my teeth... “Let me out” it would say. I would lay down again and the threat of vomiting would subside. I didn't eat or drink the whole time, yet I had to get up to go to the toilet 5 times. Can someone explain the science there?

Anyway, I lay in bed all day and all night and woke up the following day. When I finally woke up the storm had broken and it was as though the day before had never happened.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 23, 2008 from Osaka, Japan
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
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Arrival in Shanghai

Shanghai, China

Woke up the next day, the sea was calm, and it was though the gut-wrenching hell from the day before had not existed.

We ate breakfast and arrived in Shanghai at just about 12:00 even though we had thought arrival was at about 2:00pm. When we arrived, we spent an hour sitting around waiting to get off the vessel, listening to a group of extremely noisy Chinese kids chanting something that Adam assumed was “Let us off the damn boat!”. I thought it was just making noise for the sake of it. Either way we got off with no Chinese money.

It's an international entry point, right? Surely there is somewhere to change money... right? WRONG! Just as Osaka had been it was an abandoned warehouse, a scene from “28 Weeks Later” no-one there except a few officials. So we came up with our ingenious plan. Adam had a printout that would get a taxi to take us to the hotel we were going to pick up tickets from that night as we were leaving for Beijing the same evening. The Hotel was a no-go, so we had to use a bank.

We first decide to go and have a look at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, but going up the elevator cost $20. $20! In China! I can buy a house for that much! I can buy 50 cans of beer in the convenience store... There is no way I am going to pay that much to go up a tower that looks like a cock. Look over our shoulders and see two buildings far bigger. The first and biggest was the one I had come to see.

The Shanghai World Financial Center is an engineering masterpiece. It is the world's 3rd tallest building including unfinished buildings. The scheduled opening date was originally in April, or so I thought. It turned out that the opening day was August 30th. 6 days later than the day we arrived there, even though I had read about 3 different and earlier opening dates... Very disappointing.

Next door, though, I saw an absolutely monstrous building. It's the Jin Mao Tower. It is an 88 storey gem completed in 1998 with a magic observatory that cost half as much as the Pearl building, but was heaps higher! Win! We got a magic view of Shanghai, the skyline, and the soon-to-be-completed SWFC.

After looking at the view for a while we headed back to the hotel to meet the guy with the tickets. We sat there with a guy sat behind Adam, and we thought I hope that's not the guy. After 30 minutes wait, it turns out it was. We grabbed our tickets and jumped on the train. I met a nice Chinese guy, we ate prison food. We slept. We got to Beijing.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 24, 2008 from Shanghai, China
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
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The Pretty Damn Good Wall of China

Beijing, China

“All in all you're just another brick in the wall”. I have no idea why I quoted that song except they have a name in common. Get to Beijing at 7:15, go to the hotel, leave our stuff, we are in a cab on the way to the wall at 8:15am.

It is a stunning sight. We arrived at the Mutianyu wall at almost 10 and started to walk. When we got there we realized that I had to ride a cable car or walk up 1600 steps. Adam, being the good man he is, and knowing my ridiculously unfounded fear of heights said that I could choose, but after walking about 1% of the number of steps, it was obvious that I couldn't climb, so I bit the bullet and rode the cable car.

After riding up (half the way with my eyes closed) we got there and saw one of the most stunningly beautiful sights I have ever seen. This is a formidable wall. The only disappointments were,
1.The bit we were on is reconstructed a few years ago over the ruins of the old one.
2.I got bitten by a bee.
3.Nothing, it was magnificent.

We then went on to hang out at the hotel for a bit, ate dinner at a Peking Duck restaurant that Mao once ate at, and then walked up to Tian An Men square where Adam got treated like a celebrity. Every girl wanted her picture taken with him... We got a train back and now we are in the hotel. We are off to see the Forbidden City, Olympic venues tomorrow, and then at night we fly to Mongolia.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 25, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Beijing, Wall and Tiananmen

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Beijing, China

The next morning we wake up and have a lovely breakfast in our classy Hotel. A huge buffet which you can be sure I demolished.

After that we decided that it was time to do The Last Emperor thing and visit the Forbidden City. Another absolutely massive place that has been kept well intact for the last 600 years or so (although the paint job looks about 3 years old at the most). A stunning place and it would have been fricking sweet to have been the emperor and the only person allowed to live there. Although after about 10 minutes every building started to look and sound identical, The Hall of Heavenly Peace, The Hall of Earthly Harmony, The Hall of Glorious Constipation... etc....

Once done with that we walked the 45 minutes to the nearest subway station and tried to go to the Olympic Venues, but as we got near there we were told that unless we had a ticket we would only be able to see it from a long distance. We thought that the 40 minute walk to a bridge where we couldn't see the Stadium was a waste of time so we had a beer.

Back to the hotel taxi to the airport and ready for our 9:10pm flight to Ulan Bataar. 9:10 comes and goes as does 10:10, 11:10...

to be continued...

permalink written by  Big_T on August 26, 2008 from Beijing, China
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Beijing, ForbiddenCity and Walking

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Arrival in Mongolia, the best of both worlds

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

So did 12:10 AND 1:10, finally at 1:40 or so we boarded, left at 2 and arrived at 3:30 am.

We got into a taxi to take us to our hostel, we didn't have any Mongolian money yet and at 3:30 AM there was no-one there to help us change it either. So Adam asks the taxi driver if we can use dollars. "OK" he says in proud English. We get to the hostel, it is now almost 5. The door is locked, the lights are mostly off and no-one is opening, plus we have a driver charging us 3-4 times the amount of the cab fare mentioned in the guidebook.

The driver suggests that he knows a place to stay, a guesthouse for $7 a night, Adam said, OK if it was included in the money that we had already paid the filthy rat thieving cabby... He assured us it was. We get to the place, it is an apartment building where the Wicked Witch of the West lays dormant, she lets us in and we sleep for 3 hour or so.

When we get up WWoW says that it would be $10, and Adam explains that we had paid the rat-weasel cab driver. She said she didn't know the cabby, and that she didn't care what we paid him. I have no US money, Adam has $9... She wants $10, we don't have it. She threatens to call the police for $1. Adam laughs at her and tells her to get her money from the rat-weasel cab driver. She does, we go and get some Mongolian money (which is called the Togrog, no shit).

Back to our hostel, it's nice enough and then off in a baus to the countryside and a Ger camp. Some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen. Exquisite. Rolling hills, grassy fields covered in wild horses, cattle, sheep etc. Worst roads on earth!

The Ger is a felt tent and was very comfortable. A little cold at night but Adam went all primal and shit and made fire. The camp provided meals too... Big meals, Adam couldn't finish lunch and I left part of my dinner...

Adam freaked when he saw what the sky was supposed to look like without all the city lights. We could see The Big Dipper on the horizon, very impressive. I dropped my camera in a toilet, not good. Slept to get ready for the incredibly bumpy journey back to Ulaanbataar, our faith in Mongolia, Mongolians and people in general having been restored.

permalink written by  Big_T on August 27, 2008 from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
from the travel blog: Big_T's Travel Blog
tagged Scam, Ger, Hostel and UB

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